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Groundbreaking return to play journey explored in new RugbyPass TV documentary

EXETER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Bristol Bears' Director of Rugby Dave Ward Bristol Bears' Abbie Ward during the Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby Round 2 match between Exeter Chiefs Women and Bristol Bears Women at Sandy Park in Exeter, England on November 26, 2023 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

When it comes to professional rugby, Dave Ward knows his fair share about the challenges that come with it. One he certainly never had to face though, was having a baby mid-career.

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As head of Bristol Bears Women’s team, Ward is now in the fairly unique position of being both husband and coach to a player, with his wife being second row Abbie Ward.

In the new documentary, Abbie Ward: Bump in the Road, we get fascinating insight into the relationship dynamic between the Wards in the final stages of pregnancy, as well as get to see how the England Women’s second row took on the goal of having a baby and returning to rugby training just 3 months later.

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Abbie Ward: Bump in the Road | trailer

Bump in the Road explores the challenges faced by professional female athletes and all working mothers, featuring England lock, Abbie Ward. Watch the full documentary on RugbyPass TV

Watch now

Video Spacer

Abbie Ward: Bump in the Road | trailer

Bump in the Road explores the challenges faced by professional female athletes and all working mothers, featuring England lock, Abbie Ward. Watch the full documentary on RugbyPass TV

Watch now

“I’ve never seen anyone go through pregnancy and training,” says Abbie. “It seems to be only recently that you’re seeing athletes do it.”

Due to a new maternity policy launched by the RFU in 2023, female players can have their maternity period supported with 26 weeks full pay.

“Abbie was the first player to utilise the RFU’s new policy and it must have been added pressure for her to be the first player to show that it works and she could return to play,” said Director Sue Anstiss MBE.

Abbie didn’t want to stop rugby to have a family, and due to the policy, she didn’t have to. She wanted to return to rugby, and get the England jersey, as soon as possible.

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Abbie Ward
Abbie Ward in full training at Bristol Bears while pregnant. (via Abbie Ward: Bump in the Road)

“We always had a very difficult position as physios, we had to often put the reigns on these players. You just have to make sure they don’t get carried away,” said Kate Tyler, England and Bristol Bears physio.

“Historically, there’s always been that elephant in the room in that you play up until the point that you want a family, and if you want a family, that’s kind of your retirement.

“It gives these players a choice that you can still continue your career and you can still be a mum and you can be great at both of those things.”

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The man in charge of making the first team selection, should Abbie get back to full fitness in time, is none other than her husband, Dave.

She wants to be the best second row in the world. She wants to win World Cups and Premierships with Bristol, but also wants to be a world class mum. The challenge is, can you be both? This new documentary explores that concept.

Watch the full documentary on RugbyPass TV 

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